Senator John DiSanto E-Newsletter

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In this Update:

  • Senate Panel Votes to Issue Subpoenas for Election-Related Documents from Department of State
  • Auditor General Releases Audit Critical of Wolf Administration’s Business Closure Waiver Process
  • Hearing Explores Positive Experiences of Local Governments During COVID-19
  • Committee Discusses Ways to Preserve Life-Saving Care Provided by Firefighters
  • Proposed New Nursing Home Regulations Examined by Senate Committees
  • Scammers Continue to Exploit COVID-19
  • September is National Literacy Month

Senate Panel Votes to Issue Subpoenas for Election-Related Documents from Department of State

To continue its legislative investigation into the integrity of recent elections, the Senate Intergovernmental Operations Committee, of which I am not a member, voted to issue subpoenas for a variety of materials from the Pennsylvania Department of State.

Department of State officials were invited to testify at a hearing last week to discuss controversial guidance issued to counties in the final weeks and days leading up to the 2020 General Election. The subpoenas were approved after the department refused to participate or answer questions posed by the committee.

The subpoenas will include all guidance issued to counties, as well as all communications between the department and county election officials. All training materials, copies of all guidance and directives to counties are also included.

The committee also approved subpoenas for key voter data, including lists of all registered voters, voter activity, the method by which voters cast their ballots, and changes in voter registration. This data will provide a more complete picture of Pennsylvania’s election system as changes to existing law are considered to enhance election security and strengthen confidence in the accuracy of election administration.

While most voter data is already public record, the committee has indicated the voter information received through the subpoenas will be under strict security protocols to ensure it is not shared, mishandled or misused

Auditor General Releases Audit Critical of Wolf Administration’s Business Closure Waiver Process

When Pennsylvanians voted in May to put limits on Gov. Wolf’s emergency powers, part of their concern was over his pandemic business closures and his administration’s handling of closure waivers. An audit by state Auditor General Tim DeFoor found voters’ concerns to be justified.

The auditor general released a performance audit examining how the Department of Community and Economic Development handled the process to grant waivers to businesses seeking to stay open during the shutdown, stating:

“This audit revealed a flawed process that provided inconsistent answers to business owners and caused confusion. While the pandemic certainly presented some unique challenges, the process was hastily assembled on the fly, unevenly administered and should be reformed before anything like it is ever used again.”

A preliminary audit by the previous auditor general uncovered similar problems. The new audit also found that Gov. Wolf’s shutdown order was more restrictive than federal guidelines, resulting in more business closures.

The General Assembly should review the recommended changes included in the audit to determine what needs to be done to prevent a repeat in any future emergencies.

Hearing Explores Positive Experiences of Local Governments During COVID-19

The Senate and House Local Government committees held a joint hearing exploring the positives experienced by local government entities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Testifiers described the transition to virtual and hybrid meetings, technological advancements in conducting municipal business with the public and other government organizations and improved transparency. They also highlighted ways the pandemic led them to make regulatory changes, improve efficiency and modernize procedures.

You can view hearing video and written testimony here.

Committee Discusses Ways to Preserve Life-Saving Care Provided by Firefighters

The Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee held a public hearing to listen to fire chiefs, firefighters and others about how to improve recruitment and retention of the next generation of volunteer firefighters across Pennsylvania.

In addition to explaining the impact of funding challenges, testifiers highlighted the need for communities to work together in support of first responders to preserve critical access to life-saving care for all Pennsylvanians.

In the 1970s, Pennsylvania boasted 300,000 volunteer firefighters. Today, that number is fewer than 40,000. To help bolster those ranks, the Senate this year passed Senate Bill 83, which would provide grants to establish fire training programs for students during the school year with the hope they will remain firefighters for years to come.

You can view hearing video and written testimony here.

Proposed New Nursing Home Regulations Examined by Senate Committees

The Senate Health & Human Services Committee and the Aging & Youth Committee held a joint hearing to examine new regulations for long-term care nursing facilities being proposed by the Wolf Administration.

The committees brought together administration officials as well as industry experts and others to provide feedback on the proposed regulations, which the administration says is the first in a series of proposed changes that will be combined to create a final, comprehensive regulatory package.

You can view hearing video and written testimony here.

Scammers Continue to Exploit COVID-19

Since the start of the pandemic, fraudsters have been trying to exploit it for financial gain. The arrival of vaccines changed the nature of the scams but did not eliminate them.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says consumers should be on the lookout for these signs of vaccine scams:

  • Requests that you pay out of pocket to receive a shot
  • Ads for vaccines in websites, social media posts, emails or phone calls
  • Marketers offering to sell or ship doses of COVID-19 vaccines

Other scams have sought to steal stimulus money, while the FBI says con artists advertise fake COVID-19 antibody tests in hopes of harvesting personal information they can use in identity theft or health insurance scams. AARP has the latest information  on pandemic-related scams.

September is National Literacy Month

Children who learn good reading habits are more likely to develop a lifelong love of reading, which supports early writing and reading skills and builds their vocabulary. Here’s to exploring the world through reading during National Literacy Month and year round.

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